Having recently celebrated the 220th anniversary of her family's farm, winemaker Giovanna Brazzola takes great pride not only in making fantastic metodo classico and Pinot Nero - as is the trend in Lombardia - but also in sustaining the rare, historic wines of her native Oltrepò Pavese. Rather surprisingly, Montelio is one of fewer than 10 producers left cultivating Cortese in their area, so close to the border with Piedmont but where they use a different clone than in Gavi (with yellow skins as opposed to green). Perhaps more notably, the estate has also been working with the University of Piacenza to restore a historic grape nearly lost to the ages: Uva della Cascina. Re-discovered by famed enologist Attilo Scienza, this fruity, spicy variety is genetically related to the equally rare Moradella (native to the Pavia province) and yields a medium-bodied red wine with good tannins. Having planted a few rows in 2009, Giovanna and her family are now ready to start cultivating this restored grape in earnest and have recently helped get it registered under the Oltrepò Pavese DOC.
Beyond the enological, the Montelio estate and surrounding lands are steeped in history: in June of 1800, days after they’d captured Milan from the Austrians, Napoleon’s forces won the battle of Montebello just 4 or 5 kilometers from the location of today’s farm. At first, the French leader simply took possession of all the lands in southern Lombardia… but in 1803, in order to continue financing his wars, he began selling parcels to the locals. (As an interesting sidebar, this was the same year as the Louisiana Purchase, when the United States paid Napoleon 15 million dollars and virtually doubled in size overnight.) Giovanna’s great-great-great-great-grandfather, Angelo, was able to secure the lands which had once belonged to the Benedictine convent of Santa Maria and Sant’Aureliano, whose own records went back to the year 1200. Today, she and her family still own the 78-hectare estate in the town of Volghera, with its 30 hectares of contiguous grape vines along with crops of wheat, alfalfa and herbs. She works alongside her grown children, Eduardo and Irena, and nephew, Roberto (the three cousins work side by side in cellar). “They are all true farmers,” says family friend and fellow winemaker Antonio Sanguineti, “in everything they do. And they live in a community where all the winemakers really take care of one another.” In the spirit of small production, Montelio also became members of the Italian Federation of Independent Winegrowers (or F.I.V.I.) in 2017.
- Leonardo Valenti
- Grapes Grown by Winery
- Barbera, Chardonnay, Cortese, Croatina, Malvasia, Moscato, Pinot Nero, Uva della Cascina, Uva Rara
- Vineyard Size
- 30.0 ha
- Giovanna Brazzola
- Winemaker Biography
- From old vine Cortese to the production of rare local varieties, winemaker Giovanna Brazzola and her family seek to make honest, clear-headed expressions of Oltrepò Pavese. Located 30 km south of the river Po and right next-door to Piedmont, their vines benefit from mild winters, breezy summers, and calcareous soils with pockets of chalk.
- Winemaker Generation